| Daljit Singh Dhillon (right) and Deepak Thakur celebrate after the former scored the equaliser against Korea Friday. (Reuters)
Busan, Oct. 4: The celebrations in the South Korean camp after the final hooter in their pool A game against India this afternoon suggested that the team had struck gold. Actually, they were delighted with a 1-1 result that would probably earned them a weaker semi-final opponent.
Tied on points at the completion of the league phase, South Korea beat India to the top spot by a mile on goal difference ó courtesy their 14-1 scoreline over Hong Kong.
The hosts will face the group B runners-up, expected to be Malaysia. India will come up against Pakistan in the semis unless, of course, Malaysia stun Pakistan in their last pool game Sunday.
The script could have been different if Australian umpire Murray Grime hadnít disallowed a legitimate Deepak Thakur goal. Thakur diverted a stiff Jugraj Singh hit into the Korean goal but the umpire ruled that the ball had gone off a defenderís stick.
Grime had obviously been unsighted by the group of players crowding the goalmouth. Vehement protests led to Thakur being shown the green card.
The Koreans made a dream start, utilising their first penalty corner when the game was four minutes old. Jeon Jong-ha effected an indirect conversion fooling Bharat Chhetri with an angular drive.
The onus was now on India as they needed two goals to push the hosts to the second spot. With Dhanraj Pillay getting a lot of attention and Gagan Ajit Singh having an off day, the Indian forays lost the customary thrust.
The Koreans held back their cards and concentrated on keeping the Indians in their own half. On the counters, the hosts did look sharp at times with Song Seong-tae testing the Indian defence with his speed and quick turns.
Despite enjoying more of the possession, the Indians could rarely penetrate the Korean defence in the opening 35 minutes. In the second session, they showed more urgency and had raided the rival territory four times in the first nine minutes. One of those fetched India the equaliser.
Seconds after Daljit Singh Dhillon saw Pillay and Gagan Ajit fail to get a stick to a defence-splitting cross, he himself got into the act. As Jugrajís smart attempt from the top of striking zone came to Daljit off a half-hearted clearance, he cleverly scooped the ball over the íkeeperís head.
The next 20 minutes brought the best out of the Koreans as they sought to regain the lead and shut out the Indians. They forced two penalty corners and there were a couple of dangerous solo moves by Song as well.
It required some great agility from Devesh Chauhan, who came in for Chhetri seven minutes before half-time, to deny the Koreans a second goal.
It was a far from pleasant performance by the Indians. Coach Rajinder Singh was particularly unhappy with the rolling and stopping during penalty corners. Well, these are basics which ought to be ironed out in practice.
Six days should be enough to prepare for the big test.